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Food safety in Canada receives an update


November 9, 2012
By Canada Newswire

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Nov. 9, 2012, Ottawa, ON – The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health, has announced that new regulations have come into force, updating Health Canada’s 50-year-old rules for regulating food additives and improving food safety.

Food additives are substances that affect the nature of a food (flavour, colour, consistency etc.) and remain in the finished food product at some level. Until now, even when scientists showed a new additive could reduce the risk of a potential serious food-borne illness outbreak, it took an additional 12 to 18 months for the regulatory process to actually change the list and make the product legal.

Health Canada’s new system doesn’t change the thorough safety assessment that is conducted by Health Canada scientists for all food additives. It will, however, allow Health Canada to act faster to authorize food additives that have health and safety benefits, or to respond to health and safety concerns about an existing additive. It’s expected that once the scientific assessment has been completed for new food additives, the process to update these lists will save the additional delay in changing the list.

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“Canada’s system for regulating food additives was set-up over 50 years ago,” added Minister Aglukkaq. “What worked in the 1950s and ’60s simply can’t keep up with the needs and expectations of Canadians today.”

For example, C. maltaromaticum (MICOCIN) is a food additive used in certain processed meat and poultry products to help control the growth of harmful bacteria such as Listeria monocytogenes. Health Canada determined that this additive could be safely used in December 2007, but it took another 36 months for the required regulatory changes and approvals to enable industry to market this product.

The new regulations would have made a significant difference in protecting the health and safety of Canadians by allowing these additives to be used much sooner.

Moving forward, Health Canada will maintain publicly available lists on its web site (available here). Any listed additives are considered legal for use in Canada, and any limits on its use will be clearly spelled out.